Greg Gonzalez Swings Hearts with Cigarettes After Sex
The emotionally-inspired lead singer reminisces on childhood dreams and expounds on his creative process.
Formed in 2008, indie-pop band Cigarettes After Sex tops most romantic playlists with moving love lyrics and ethereal melodies. Over the last 11 years, the emotive group has polished their infectious sound and refined aesthetic through a break-out debut EP and two home-hitting studio albums, all of which have become fan favorites. At the band’s conception, lead vocalist and guitarist Greg Gonzalez enlisted bassist Randall Miller, drummer Jacob Tomsky, and keyboardist Josh Marcus to actualize his musical fantasy, and his journey was one of touching self-discovery.
The Texas-born and raised lead singer first discovered his alternative passions for music as a young boy in El Paso. An outcast to the status quo, Gonzalez formulated his own curated taste in music, one that entirely contrasted that of his peers. “I felt a little isolated in El Paso,” he told us. “I had friends that kind of liked the music I liked, but for the most part, I was really in my own world. It didn’t seem like anyone around me liked the music I did.” Taking notice of his refined, melodic palate early on, Gonzalez spent much of his adolescence exploring his individuality and entertaining his adoration for music. In reflection of his childhood, Gonzalez expounded, “I guess being on my own and being isolated in that way helped me to form my own point of view about things early on.” With a clear vision and a firm sense of identity, Gonzalez confidently pursued a career as a musician.
It was at the age of 15 when Gonzalez was still in high school that he performed in front of an audience for the first time. Alongside his band members on the stage of a Christian rock club where young groups frequently showed, the aspiring performer took his first swing at actualizing his dream. “I don’t remember being that nervous for some reason. I wasn’t even singing back then. I was just playing guitar,” he reminisced. Finding comfort in performing on guitar, Gonzalez wanted to challenge himself with singing for a live audience at future gigs. “For some reason, when I started singing, that’s when I was nervous for the first time. There’s something about singing that makes you feel like you’re naked.” Engaging in one of art’s most vulnerable forms, Gonzalez discovered a powerful connection to vocalizing his emotions in song and committed to honing his voice to perfection.
Forming his dream-pop band Cigarettes After Sex at this time, the lead singer now had confidence in the sound he aimed to produce. Gonzalez expressed his desire to produce music “where one hundred years from now, it could sound like it’s still current, but also sound like it was from 300 years ago or something too.” He continued, “Writing about romance does that. The songs about romance are the ones that end up lasting years and years because people are just always going to care about that.” Singing from emotional experience on a topic of timelessness, Cigarettes After Sex’s debut EP I. drew out the raw romantic expression that the band is now widely appreciated for. Stepping into the limelight with their first, self-titled studio album in 2015, the group served an original and sentimental ambiance that resonated with the minds of many.
As Cigarettes After Sex wraps up their US and Europe tour this month, the love-inspired band just released their second studio album Cry, featuring a melancholy range of heart-toiling anthems. Before the album’s release, Gonzalez gave fans an exclusive first listen to a few unreleased tracks amidst performances of old hits while on tour. “We were performing one of the new songs ‘Falling in Love’, and when we started singing, I just found it really emotional to play live,” he told us. As each song is rooted entirely in authentic sensations, sharing and relating to such vulnerable experiences ultimately forms a fortuitous connection between the band and their fans. “I looked into the crowd and someone was crying to a song and it made me really choked up and I didn’t want to start crying on the microphone or something,” Gonzalez continued. “I had to not think about it.” A touching act, Cigarettes After Sex speak to their fans on a level that hits close to home in all the right ways.
With advertisements across New York’s subway stations, Gonzalez reminisced on a time of intense hustle trying to make it big in the city. “It was a very hard life when I first moved [to New York]. Getting home at 4:00 a.m. and waking up at 8 a.m. to go to work, that whole hustle that I had to do to actually just survive in New York was insane,” he explained. “So, it was strange because I went to that train station so many times on my way to work and all of a sudden there’s my record being advertised in it.” A monument of his success, Gonzalez’s subway promotions exist as a manifestation of his El Paso dreams coming to life.
With more music and an international tour on the way, Gonzalez’s inspiring journey with Cigarettes After Sex has only just begun. Indulge in the band’s moving new album Cry below.